Strong relationships with subcontractors are a vital part of the success of Hopkins & Porter, and the Potomac, Md., company uses both formal and informal methods to bond with its trade contractors.

President Michael Denker says that his company provides clients with architectural support, carpentry crews, and production management. The rest of the work in the remodeling division is done by trade contractors. Subcontracted work includes excavation, concrete and masonry, electrical, plumbing, dry-wall, painting, tiling, and roofing.

Hopkins & Porter asks trade contractors to sign a contract. “It's not in legalese,” Denker says. “It just outlines things that are important to us. Asking [subcontractors] to sign it means they read it more carefully.”

The document covers rules for on-site behavior, communication with the company's employees and project managers, customer relations, dress code, as well as how to handle estimates, payment, and scheduling. The company asks trades to sign the contract every year.

“In many ways, the conduct of our subcontractors is as important as the specified work that they have a contract to execute,” Denker says. “I suspect that, like a lot of firms, we must train our subs when we find a likely candidate, the same way we train our employees.”

Hopkins & Porter's side of the agreement is to pay its trade contractors in a timely manner. “We are in the process of reviewing the contract,” Denker says, “intending to add more language that pertains to our mutual agreement: doing timely pricing of plans.”

Though the contract reflects the company's professional relationship with trade contractors, Denker also recognizes the informal relationships between his crew and the field subs. “We invite subs to a ‘sub appreciation' picnic with all members of our company. I have also had numerous meetings, both formal and informal, with the owners of our sub firms to give personal feedback and to help them with business issues.

“I believe that if the sub is successful in business they will be a better sub for us,” Denker says.